Affordable Ways to Refill Your Creative Well

20+ low-cost ideas to fuel your creativity and feel inspired

Sometimes a new brush or tool added to your arsenal can feel like an exciting and rewarding treat. Doesn’t hurt that you’ll probably be excited to try it out!

After many times pushing past the point of creative health and finding myself burnt out or with no ideas, I have learned to listen better to the warning signs. These are things that can help you to slow down, restore your energy and focus, and find new inspiration. For a list of free suggestions, go here.

  1. Buy a cup of coffee and find a cozy nook or window spot to sit in. Read a book, people watch, or think and journal. There is something about being in a shop surrounded by the hum of people that can wipe away any feelings of loneliness or melancholy.
  2. Get a tour of an architectural gem in your area. Maybe a church, basilica, historic house, etc. Not only is looking up and around the space fodder for new inspiration, so are the stories and snippets you may glean from a tour.
  3. Go to the theatre and see some real actors on a stage, for a change! I did this with some friends, recently. Having not been for several years, it was a memorable evening. I was fascinated by the set and lighting decisions.
  4. Visiting the botanical gardens is always a magical and inspiring experience, for me.

    Visit the botanical gardens or a greenhouse. This is one of my favourites! Especially in the middle of a long, cold, and snowy winter. I love to wander the warm spaces and take in the lush variety of my surroundings.

  5. Take a course or workshop in something new. Sign up to explore something you’ve always wanted to learn: pottery, painting, woodworking, food preserving, swing dancing… I recently took a half-day workshop in natural dyeing and textiles. It was a small commitment that turned out to be such an invigorating and inspiring experience – a whole new world of ideas opened up!
  6. Be a tourist in your own area. Rent a bike / boat / car and experience an area from a different view-point, or visit somewhere nearby you’ve long wanted to see. For example, if you live near water, getting out in a kayak and seeing the land and city from the viewpoint of bobbing in the water can bring new ideas or at least an afternoon of fun.
  7. Buy some unusual supplies and make something with them. Go to a fabric, hardware, dollar, or store that you don’t normally get supplies from and pick out some things that look fun. Return home and make something with them.
  8. Visit a gallery. You might go to a big one to see everything contemporary, an old one to see back in history, or one that reveals a new world to you. I love these the most… think natural history, archeology, science… I am usually not much of a gallery or museum person, but I have rich memories of a handful of museums visited over the years that have left lasting impressions in my creative mind.
  9. Visiting a local bookstore and allowing yourself to be enticed by the pages of a book.

    Seek inspiration in books. Wander a few bookstores or used bookstores and select a book or two that really get you excited (free version of this: the library). There is magic in curling up with a new book and the small gesture of turning each page as you go.

  10. Go to a farmer’s market. Browsing the stalls of beautiful goods on display can help you slow down and enjoy the wonders of community and agriculture.
  11. Enjoy some different food flavours. Take yourself to a restaurant serving a different style or ethnicity of food than you normally eat. Slow down and savour the different flavours that are presented to you.
  12. Take a yoga, dance, exercise, or other body-based course. We tend to let our worries and anxieties get the best of us. Moving from your head into your body can help you to feel more grounded.
  13. Rent some movies that make a fun mini-festival and watch them. I like to combine a current movie with something from classic Hollywood. A comedy is good, too. Laughter is good at shaking out hidden tensions.
  14. Go for a hike in a national park. As someone living in a city, getting out into nature has a way of feeling like a spiritual experience, for me. I especially love meadows and windswept beaches. Seeing expanses of land and sky is such a contrast to the density and height of the city.
  15. A bouquet of flowers in your space can bring daily delight.

    Buy a bouquet of flowers for your table. A bouquet of cut flowers brings me a little hit of delight every time I walk by. I follow an artist who buys herself a small bouquet each week. They always bring joy, and often have given inspiration for a piece of work.

  16. Bake or cook a favourite / new dish. Pick a recipe that sounds enticing and go on a mini-grocery trip to get the relevant ingredients. Plate it beautifully and serve for yourself or invite over a few family/friends to enjoy with you.
  17. Plant something. Go to a plant store or greenhouse. Choose a few plants or seeds (and pots, if needed) and get planting! I love finding a plant with new shapes, colours, or textures, to add a little inspiration day-to-day. I also love planting new combinations of plants and seeing how they do.
  18. Go to a life drawing drop-in session. Not only might you meet like-minded people or be inspired by the work of others, it can be an enjoyable creative experience for yourself. I love to work larger (think a big pad of newsprint) and with a tool that glides well across the paper (like conté or a marker). It can be a meditative and gestural act of making – with no expectations for finished work.
  19. Go see a movie in the theatre by yourself. There is something about sitting in a dark theatre by yourself and allowing yourself to become absorbed in the story on screen… Also consider going to a matinée or daytime showing to save a little on the ticket cost and be in an emptier theatre.
  20. Take a mini getaway to visit a friend. I put this one last because it *could* become more than low-cost. There are plenty of ways to find a sale or book an affordable weekend getaway, though. Arrange a weekend retreat for yourselves oriented around whatever sounds the most needed: whether it be a little shopping, reading, spa treatment, going to a concert or festival, or simply spending time in nature. Enjoy the experience of catching up and connecting.

BONUS ITEM: Add a new item to your creative toolbox. Go to your favourite art supply store and select a new tool that you have long-wanted. Whether it be a new colour you want to try, a brush to add to your arsenal, a new pad of paper, or a journal and pen… it can feel exciting, entice you to get creating, and can breathe new life into your creative work. The key thing for me is to start using it right away.

I highly encourage you to pick just one thing from this list and go do it – either now or one day this week. Adding in small restorative actions will help you to keep your creative well healthy and clear and will help ignite a little creative spark in your life.

I have what I call a ‘low reservoir alarm’. I talk more about what that is and about maintaining a healthy creative well in my post Where Do Creative Ideas Come From? I have also talked about the all-important need for space in the creative process based on learnings from pushing my own creative productivity to its limits.

MORE IDEAS: 20+ completely free ways to fuel your creativity.

Feeling inspired, but still not making? I wrote a post all about how to get out of your own way and start creating that shares what I’ve learned over years of building a sustainable creative practice for myself. Whether you’re an artist or not, it applies to all creative work.

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